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Not only do we live in a rural enclave, but we’ve now been labeled elite and entrenched.
In case you missed it, new rules for building in the mountains are now being considered by the county. Specifically, in the past it was possible to build on less than 35 acres if your land was an old mining claim. There are about 4,000 such sites in the county, (about 3,000 are buildable sites) and if all of them become housing sites the population in mountain Boulder County could rise from the present 10,500 to more than 27,000. The new rules would eliminate the exemption, and that would make these small land holdings essentially worthless while the value of existing properties would skyrocket, along with property taxes. My own valuation rose 25% this year and I’ll bet yours did, too. Additional rules would tell us where to put property access, require windows that prevent glare from the sun, limit the colors a house could be painted and restrict how much earth could be moved.
One of our commissioners, Homer Page, says that the regulations reflect concerns about the population potential in terms of increased road traffic, a falling water table and fire hazards.
Faithful readers are aware that I have often considered the pros and cons of progress and increasing numbers of people on our valley and its future. And there’s no doubt I’m among the entrenched, although I have to question the elite label.
As usual, I don’t have any answers, just questions. The new regulations will hurt a number of people in a number of ways, but, as Homer put it, “What’s the alternative?” Building permits, which have been 40 to 80 in the past 10 years, have risen to 105 in 1992 and you only have to look around to see the new roofs in our valley. The problem is at least county-wide. As I drive from Lafayette to Longmont, the rural drive I took 10 years ago is now a drive through subdivisions and a golf course where the building lots sell for $72,500, to $345,000 “depending on location and view” and they’re selling as rapidly as they can be prepared. Their water will come from us.
Is it time to circle the wagons? How many houses can be built before our fire department can no longer guarantee their safety? As it is, at the fringes the best they can do is prevent a fire’s spread to the forest. And as our forest continues to age, the probabilities for a major fire continue to rise. More people, more houses, more propane, more electricity all mean more danger to the community as a whole. Is it unreasonable to put some limits on growth?
These are truly vexing questions our little community will have to face in the coming years, and we used to think those problems were a long way off. The trouble with the future is that it has a way of becoming today.
Homer asks a good question: what is the alternative?
© 1985 – 2003, David E. Steiner
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